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Transit plays a critical role in connecting Americans to economic opportunity, and that’s why I was proud to be in Columbus, Ohio, this week to announce a federal grant for a new bus rapid transit (BRT) project. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is providing $37.5 million to the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) for its CMAX BRT project. The funds are provided through FTA’s Capital Investment Grant (CIG) Program, the federal government’s primary grant program for funding major transit projects.

COTA’s new BRT line will strengthen and revitalize the communities it serves along Cleveland Avenue, connecting downtown Columbus with the northern suburbs, and improving access to jobs, education and medical care for thousands of residents.

CMAX Stylized Map image

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When it comes to vehicle safety, we often envision protecting the lives of occupants traveling inside a vehicle. But while roadway fatalities have successfully declined in recent years, the number of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities have increased.

In 2014, there were 4,884 pedestrians killed and an estimated 65,000 injured in traffic crashes in the United States. On average, a pedestrian was killed every 2 hours and injured every 8 minutes in traffic crashes.

As such, I declared pedestrian and bicyclist safety a top priority for the USDOT and the deployment of connected vehicle technology has the potential to yield significant safety benefits for all pedestrians including cyclists, people in wheelchairs, children in strollers and passengers getting on and off of buses.

Image of pedestrians

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As the month of May comes to a close, so too does the annual observance of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. But that doesn’t mean the end of efforts to make riders, and indeed all road users, safer.

Across the country, decision makers at the local, state and federal levels rely on data and analysis to make important decisions about making the communities we live in, and the transportation system we rely on, safer.

There are clear trends showing that the number of motorcycle fatalities is on the rise in recent years. We know this from compiling and analyzing reams of data points. Our Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), established in 1992, is designed to administer data collection, analysis, and reporting and to ensure the most cost-effective use of transportation-monitoring resources. Our challenge is to develop data and analyses that are relevant, high quality, timely, comparable, complete, and accessible-our strategic goals for transportation statistics.

spotting a motorcycle on the road can be hard image of traffic

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In honor of its 50th Anniversary, the US Department of Transportation has designated June as “Innovation Month.”  But what exactly does that mean?

The word “innovation” gets tossed around so much these days that it has almost lost its meaning.  Everywhere you turn, things are being labelled “innovative” even though they often seem, well… rather ordinary.  As a result, the word “innovation” can start to sound like a hollow buzzword. 

When Secretary Foxx asked me to serve as USDOT’s first Chief Innovation Officer, it wasn’t to bring more buzzwords to government.  My enthusiasm to take leave from Stanford University, where I work as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and join USDOT was not because of the trendy title.  It was instead because I saw a huge challenge and a chance to do my part to help meet it.

Image of demonstration of the Microsoft Kinect system at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City
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As holidays go, Memorial Day is one of America’s most important. It is a time to remember the sacrifices made by those who have died in the service of our country.

It is also the traditional start to summer and, with that, summer driving. Last week, our friends at the AAA announced their estimate that 34 million drivers will travel more than 50 miles from home this weekend, making it one of the most highly traveled weekends in more than a decade.

According to FHWA data, the busiest interstates in the nation are Los Angeles’ I-5, which is used by an estimated 452,600 drivers on a normal day, followed by Atlanta’s I-401, which typically serves an estimated 382,000 drivers each day. You can bet those numbers will be even higher this weekend.

Safety first street sign

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Transportation is our lifeblood. It gets us where we need to be, whether it’s to work, to meet friends, to enjoy our kids’ baseball games or be home with our families.

It’s funny, but when it works best, we almost forget about transportation. It’s always there. It’s reliable. We don’t need to think about it.

Unfortunately, everyday transportation has become even more challenging as our cities grow. Congestion, cost, proximity, or the ability to physically access some vehicles are hurdles. These barriers, like a purchasing or driving a car, are even higher for our most vulnerable communities – the working poor, children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

Image of Secretary Anthony Foxx and representatives at the conference table

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Earlier this month, Kansas City, Missouri celebrated a major first as residents and visitors boarded the city’s first streetcar in over 59 years. A result of a $20 million TIGER grant awarded by the Department of Transportation, Kansas City’s streetcar system came in on time and under budget. As 32,000 people climbed aboard during opening weekend, $1.7 Billion in economic development had already been accounted for along the 2.2 mile route.

During his opening remarks, Mayor Sly James thanked DoT partners who “from the very beginning, understood what this project meant to our residents, our visitors and our future.” He noted that this was not an ending, but rather the beginning of something truly transformative for the people of Kansas City. 

And he was right.

Streetcar and Union Station with Liberty Memorial Image

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The efficiency of freight movement affects the bottom line of businesses nationwide -- from the first mile, when a product is shipped, to the last mile, when it arrives at its destination. For businesses in the Northeast, this means cost – the cost of delivery and, increasingly, the costs of delay. 

In New York City, 80 percent of freight is moved by truck -- leading to some of the worst and most expensive congestion in the country. The myriad of solutions to address the freight congestion in the Big Apple will call for complex undertakings such as the Cross Harbor Freight Program proposed by the Port of New York and New Jersey (the East Coast’s largest port). The project could improve freight movement across New York Harbor by offering a tunnel and various non-highway alternatives, such as rail.

At the same time, easier and proven solutions such as off-peak deliveries, or nighttime deliveries, continue to be part of the answer to freight congestion. There is no question that truck deliveries made when there is less traffic on the highways - can save time and money. With the rise in online shopping and other deliveries -- traditional approaches to freight shipping will change.

Image of trucks on bridge traffic

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As the Portland team prepared for Secretary Foxx’s visit to the Rose City last week, we knew one thing for certain: We wanted to share the transformative potential of the Smart City Challenge with the community. That is why we chose to host Secretary Foxx at Portland Community College’s (PCC) Southeast Campus.

The entire PCC system is a strong rung on the region’s ladder of opportunity, educating over 89,000 students across the city at four large, full-service facilities. Their Southeast campus is on the Powell-Division corridor – one of Portland’s most important arteries and a priority area in our Smart City Challenge proposal. The proposed BRT line that will serve the Powell Division Corridor is currently in project development with the FTA. This corridor is also one of Portland’s most diverse areas, with growing and vibrant Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Latino, Russian, and Ukrainian communities. The Southeast campus’ student body reflects the cultural diversity of the area and promotes a strong sense of community. Our engagement with PCC shows what our Smart City application is all about: using the most advanced technology to help the most people connect with jobs, opportunity and a better future.

Image of Fifth graders at Jason Lee School brainstorm ways Smart City technology could improve their neighborhood with Assistant Transportation Director Maurice Henderson.
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Forty years of growth made San Bernardino County’s Devore Interchange one of Southern California’s most urgently needed projects. Last week, I visited the interchange, at the junction of Interstates 15 and 215, and saw firsthand how critical it is to the movement of people and freight in this rapidly growing region.

For too long, congestion and gridlock have been the norm for the one million cars and 150,000 commercial trucks that use the interchange weekly. During peak times, it’s not uncommon for traffic to exceed five miles.  Bumper-to-bumper traffic conditions on the interchange undermine the productivity of not only the region—but of the entire nation. 

Image of people talking about relief project in San Bernardino

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